Offiah fires Castleford ire : RUGBY LEAGUE

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The Independent Online
Castleford have reacted angrily to the ruling that Martin Offiah can play against them tomorrow after all. Offiah was originally said by the Rugby League to be ineligible to play for Wigan because of his withdrawal from the Great Britain team in t he World Sevens in Sydney this weekend.

Offiah failed a fitness test after twisting his knee in Wigan's Regal Trophy final victory, which was thought to rule him out of playing for his club while the party is away. But, after trying in vain to contact its chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, who is in Australia for the tournament, the League has decided that its standing orders permit Offiah to play tomorrow if fit to do so.

"Had he withdrawn himself, he would have been unable to play for his club," said the League's spokesman, Neil Tunnicliffe. "But he was declared unfit by the Great Britain doctor."

Castleford's chairman, Eddie Ashton, is far from happy with the ruling.

"But it is what I expected," he said. "There is one rule for the rest of the league and one for Leeds and Wigan - especially Wigan.

"If it had been us, we would have been fined. This is making a laughing stock of the game and there is a question of credibility involved. We have Tony Smith at the Sevens, which is something we could well have done without."

Wigan have Denis Betts away in Sydney and Jason Robinson and Andy Farrell injured. Shaun Edwards and Gary Connolly are expected to be fit, but having Offiah available for a game important to their championship ambitions would be a major boost. Castlefordwill be without Richard Russell, injured in England's match against Wales, and Simon Price will deputise.

Another casualty of the game in Cardiff is Paul Newlove, much to the disgust of his club, Bradford Northern. He has had a scan on a groin injury and will miss tomorrow's trip to Workington, who are bidding for a fourth win in a row to continue their climb out of danger.

Wayne Marshall, an experienced hooker from Eastern Suburbs in Sydney, makes his Salford debut at stand-off against Halifax.

Apollo Perelini returns for St Helens in place of another Sevens absentee, Chris Joynt. Perelini plays against Sheffield Eagles after returning from a trip back to Western Samoa to get married.

The Warrington coach, Brian Johnson, has dropped Francis Maloney and Rob Myler following their Regal Trophy final defeat. Lee Penny returns at full-back against Doncaster and Kelly Shelford moves to stand-off.

The structure of the game faces challenges on both sides of the world next week.

The prospect of a breakaway super league in Australia, including the Brisbane Broncos and possibly the Canberra Raiders, is moving closer with News Limited's announcement that it intends to go ahead with the plan next year, with or without the agreement of the Australian Rugby League.

British clubs will be circulated with proposals for the imposition of a salary cap, which they will discuss at their meeting on 15 February. A proposal from a member of the League's board of directors, Roy Waudby, will set a ceiling for each club based on its audited income.

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